Glasgow Warriors will kick off the new Guinness Pro12 season with an away match against reigning champions Connacht on Saturday 3 September.
Edinburgh are also away on the opening day and will kick off their campaign in Wales against Cardiff Blues the same day.
For Gregor Townsend’s Glasgow side the opening fixture offers the chance of revenge as the Warriors were beaten by Connacht in last season’s semi-final.
The Irish province were surprise champions, defeating Leinster in the final at BT Murrayfield.
In an innovation for the new season Pro12 organisers have designated six ‘Big Weekends’ across the season that will comprise of special intra-union derby matches as well as capitalising on the rivalry between the Italian and Scottish clubs. The ‘Big Weekends’ will include signature match-ups such as the 1872 Cup Scottish derby, the annual Leinster versus Munster game at the Aviva Stadium, the Italian derby and the double header Judgement Day spectacular between the Welsh Regions.
The first ‘Big Weekend’ round will take place in Round 6 with the clash between Leinster and Munster at the Aviva Stadium headlining a weekend that also includes Connacht v Ulster, Scarlets v Dragons, Ospreys v Cardiff Blues, Edinburgh v Treviso and Zebre v Glasgow.
There are also two back-to-back Big Weekends during the festive season in Round 11 and Round 12. And the regular season will end with ‘Super Saturday’ and six big intra-union matches in Round 22 and include the second and final leg of the 1872 Cup between Edinburgh and the Warriors at Scotstoun. All Round 22 games will kick-off simultaneously to see who makes it through to the all-important Semi Finals.
“We are delighted to announce the fixture list, as well as the designated broadcasters for the first 13 rounds, ahead of what promises to be a truly special Guinness Pro12 season,” said Martin Anayi, managing director of Pro12 Rugby.
“After listening to feedback from both the clubs and fans, we have been able to take initial steps to restructure our season that puts the emphasis on creating the best experience possible for supporters.
“With 70 of the first 78 matches scheduled for live television, we have more free-to-air matches than ever before, while the majority of Friday night fixtures will be at the regular timeslot of 19:35, which our fans tell us is their preferred slot.
“What is even more exciting is that, in Wales, we have managed to open a weekly Saturday evening slot on S4C – with the amount of Sunday games reduced to just three across the whole season – including two on New Year’s Day. Again this is something the fans in Wales had been asking us for and we are happy we could get it in place for this season. I would like to thank Sky Sports for their help in facilitating this change, as well as the continued support of all our broadcast partners including BBC Cymru Wales, BBC Alba, BBC Northern Ireland and TG4.
“Our aim is to develop a schedule that puts the fan experience first and gives our clubs the best chance of bumper crowds coming to watch our star players in the biggest games of the season. Now our fans will get to experience big weekend atmospheres with mouth-watering fixtures spread across the whole season.
“For example, we have ensured that all teams have a home match in either Round 1 or 2, and in one of the last two rounds. Also, no club has three consecutive home or away matches – lending the competition a far better balance.”
The Championship will climax on Saturday, 27 May 2017 with the Guinness Pro12 Final – the venue, city and ticket information for this flagship event will be announced in due course.